What is “Sugar-Free”?

What is “Sugar-Free”?

I use the term “sugar-free” to refer to desserts sweetened without any of the following ingredients, which contain high amounts of sugar (i.e. sucrose, or its component parts glucose and fructose). The following ingredients are NOT “sugar-free”:

Table Sugar
Brown Sugar
Turbinado/Muscovado/Demerara Sugar
Agave Nectar
Coconut or Palm Sugar
Blackstrap Molasses*
Maple Syrup
High Fructose Corn Syrup

*I use small amounts of honey, bananas, and blackstrap molasses in some of my recipes to enhance the flavor and texture. Those recipes are not strictly sugar-free. However, the carbohydrate count per serving of every dessert on this website is less than 10 grams net carbohydrates (total carbohydrates minus the fiber) per serving, making the desserts very low in sugar. If you’re on a strictly sugar-free plan then you can choose to avoid those recipes with honey and molasses. For reference, most regular desserts contain 20-40 grams of carbohydrates per serving!

You might hear any of the above listed sweeteners referred to as “healthy, natural alternatives to white sugar.” Regardless of the presence of any trace nutrients found in these sweeteners, they still contain the sugars glucose and fructose, and are NOT sugar-free! Consuming significant amounts of those sweeteners listed will prevent you from reaping the benefits of eating a low sugar (i.e. low fructose and glucose) diet.

Even if the above ingredients aren’t listed, be sure to check the ingredients label for anything ending in “–ose.” If an ingredient has that suffix, it contains sugar! 😉

Why eat “Sugar-Free”?

I personally consume as little sugar as possible (not including fruit) because sugar triggers my appetite like no other food! Have you ever seen someone who can eat a pint of ice cream in one sitting? I am that person. Research shows that some people are much more prone to sugar addiction than others. It’s not just about willpower when it comes to controlling your portion sizes of sugary foods.

Readers of this blog left comments over at one of my old recipe posts  explaining why they limit their sugar consumption. Feel free to share your own story below!

Here are some of my favorite nutrition science resources with information concerning the effects of sugar on the human body. I am not a medical professional, so nothing on this website constitutes medical advice. Please consult your own health care provider for advice on your unique situation before beginning any nutritional program.

Why We Get Fat: And What to Do About It by Gary Taubes
New Atkins for a New You: The Ultimate Diet for Shedding Weight and Feeling Great by Westman and Phinney

Dr. Bernstein’s Diabetes Solution by Dr. Richard K. Bernstein

Articles and Video Clips:
“Is Sugar Toxic?” (segment on 60 Minutes)
“A Reversal On Carbs” (article)
Fructose: Sweet, But Dangerous (article)
A Spoonful of Sugar (a post at the blog of Dr. Michael R. Eades, M.D.)
Sugar Is a Poison, Says UCSF Obesity Expert (article)

Stopping Addition to Sugar: Willpower or Genetics?



10 Comments on What is “Sugar-Free”?

  1. James Bardwell
    June 17, 2013 at 6:32 pm (10 years ago)

    Hey Lauren! Your site is terrific – I am pretty stingy about low carb/sugar sites because many times the recipes are chock full sucralose, aspartame, etc. Thank you for developing something that uses some other alternatives such as stevia. I also am very appreciative of your transparency on what is defined as sugar free vs. not. Keep up the great work!

    James B

    • Lauren Benning
      September 9, 2014 at 8:03 pm (9 years ago)

      James, you are very welcome! Thank you so much for the nice comment.

  2. Karen
    July 18, 2013 at 4:40 pm (10 years ago)

    At 72, I have just discovered I may be gluten sensitive; my husband and I have been doing low carb off and on for about 15 years, and more seriously this past 3 years…I am very very sold on low carb and am jumping for joy at finding your website…I can hardly wait to try the tortillas…thank you for helping the gluten free novice

  3. Jenny
    October 8, 2013 at 7:52 pm (9 years ago)

    I love your site, but I do wish to point out that both honey and maple syrup are actually quite good for you as far as sweeteners go: both contain polyphenols, which help to prevent the conversion of carbs to sugars in the body (important for those with diabetes), and both are rich in antioxidants. In addition, maple syrup is high in manganese and zinc, which can help prevent not only colds but illnesses like prostate cancer. And honey is an antiviral. Both are much lower in sugars than sweeteners from sugar-cane. As long as they are used in moderation (like any sweetener ought to be), I don’t feel that they should be included in a list of unhealthy sweeteners. (I only bring this up because I respect and love this blog, and I feel that this is an important point.)

    • Lauren B.
      October 13, 2013 at 2:33 am (9 years ago)

      Hi, Jenny! Do you have links to journal articles about differences in how the body absorbs the glucose and fructose in honey and maple syrup vs table sugar? According to the nutrition labels, 1 tablespoon of honey contains 17 grams of sugar, and 1 tablespoon of maple syrup contains 12 grams of sugar. I am primarily concerned about the effects of glucose and fructose on insulin secretion and blood lipids.

      Thank you for sharing that information about the polyphenols and minerals in those sweeteners.

  4. Pamela Montgomery
    September 9, 2015 at 9:54 am (8 years ago)

    I was looking for your recipe to make your own Stevia/Truvia but could not find it. Could you send that to me so that I can make my own. Thanks and I love this site.

  5. kredit für gewerbeeröffnung
    January 28, 2017 at 10:14 am (6 years ago)

    One more thing. I’m reading your book again. This time as a text book and am taking copious notes. I’m also checking out the sources you listed for further reading.Thanks again.


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